Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

I opened the newspaper this morning to the shocking news that Benazir Bhutto had been murdered and her attacker then blew himself up, taking at least fifteen other bystanders with him. It seems to becoming almost routine to physically attack anyone who does not believe as you do. What is it that motivates these people? They are not all members of oppressed minorities. They come from all over the world and from many different faiths and beliefs systems. In fact the main thing these fanatics (of whatever faith) have in common is a lack of respect for others and a conviction that their way is better than that of everyone else. Surely they would achieve much more by showing that their belief was superior and so attracting converts instead of expecting acts of violence to change belief systems. I can't imagine that those who convert from fear to any faith are going to be genuine believers and lack of true faith must undermine any religion.
Coming, as I do, from a multicultural, multiracial family which includes Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and where everyone's beliefs are respected and celebrated by us all, I find this quite incomprehensible. We are happy to accept our family members for the people they are and the same goes for those of our acquaintances who are atheist, Muslim, Baha'i or anything else. Why can't the rest of the world do the same?

Summer Days

Maybe it's because I was born in the middle of a heatwave but I'm less worried by heat (as long as it's not humid) than many others but even I headed for relief inside the air conditioned house on Boxing Day. Let's face it, 44.2 degrees Celsius (111.5 degrees F) is pretty warm. It made yesterday's 33.9 degrees C ( 93 degrees F) seem positively cool.
Pisces's family gathers at his sister's beach house at Palm Beach on Boxing Day. It's only a couple of minutes walk away from the beach but this year the heat was so intense that swims were few and very short. Poor Virgo spent some time out in the garden under the trees with her cousins and still got burned. She, who loves the beach, was cursed with the only pale porcelain complexion in the family, inherited from her great grandfather. She looks at me who has to work at not getting tanned and feels very hard done by.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas thoughts

Family all crammed around one table, lots of food, talk and fun courtesy of some very superior Christmas crackers, presents under the tree, wreath on the door- yes, it's definitely Christmas.

Although we are in danger of the beeping of cash registers drowning the original message of Christmas they aren't the important part of the day. Nor is the fact that every year someone just has to remind us that shepherds couldn't possibly have been watching their sheep in the snow because it's the wrong season, the Wise Men probably weren't kings and anyhow the date seems to have been chosen to coincide with the Roman Saturnalia. Then there are those who are convinced that children allowed to believe in Father Christmas will lose all trust in their parents. None of this is important. The choice of date was purely arbitrary since no-one actually knows when it was. The early Church did what it has done ever since and settled on a date that already had a festival associated with it, changing its nature and making it the Church's own.

From a purely religious festival driven by the desire of the faithful to celebrate the birth of Jesus the season has spread to be embraced by the secular part of the community and although some rail about this, I don't think it matters. Amid all the crassness and commercialism, Christmas still brings something special, common to everyone no matter what their belief. It is the reconnection of family and friends - that all important glue that holds society together. This year spare a thought for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone and do what you can to help them share that connection if only for a while. In my opinion, that's the true spirit of Christmas.

With that thought, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a New Year filled with every good thing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Summer Idiots

It's summer in the Australia and the pests are out. On the driest continent on Earth with highly flammable bush they arrive every year with their matches and cigarette lighters. From 7:30 am until 3:30 pm yesterday water bombing helicopters were flying overhead, fighting the twelfth deliberately lit fire in a large area set aside for public use a short walk from where I live. It has playing fields for a variety of sports, pockets of bush and parkland with walk trails, picnic areas and stables for Riding for the Disabled among other things. So it's not just the native animals but the horses as well that are at risk. The question is why would anyone want to set fires there?
The bombers and fire brigades are back today because the fire has flared up again and below us the suburb is smothered in smoke. We are fortunate we live on a hill and the wind has until now been blowing most of the smoke away from us - just as well too since Virgo and I both suffer from asthma along with several of our neighbours. We have an evaporative air-conditioner (very popular in our dry climate) and the day is heating up but it's dangerous to put it on because of the risk of flying sparks lodging in it. As a result we're sweltering inside with all the doors and windows closed and the washing, rescued as the wind changed, sogging on clothes airers.
This fire and the ones that annually devastate another bushland enclave, also a short walk from my home, put all of us who live here (and our property) at risk, as do fires set by arsonists everywhere in the world. I find this behaviour totally incomprehensible. What conceivable pleasure is there in causing such destruction? I understand the fascination of fire. I grew up with an open wood fire and wood fired stove providing our household heating and hot water. There's nothing much to match the pleasure of sitting in front of a log fire on a cold winter's day but there's also nothing quite so terrifying as an out of control wildfire. These idiots are lighting fires in the middle of suburbs. What do they think they are doing?

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I just have to share this - created by the inimitable Cat Sparks and seen on Rob Hood's blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What excitement!

Sonia Helbig, my writing mate from KSPSF, has taken second place in the fourth quarter of the Writers of the Future Competition. What a Christmas present!
Less pleasant, Virgo, who is house-sitting, woke to find the power off and, unable to find a simple solution, tried to get an electrician to call. The first one she tried advertises 24 hour service but after hours (the only time they could come today) they charge $289.00 for the first half hour. That's about half her weekly wage. She's already lost all her food so she's now trying to track down someone else to come in normal hours tomorrow. When you compare those rates with say a teacher's pay you wonder why anyone would join a profession.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of Chapters, Synopses and Taos Toolbox

I've spent this week wrestling with the dreaded synopsis while trying to finish another chapter, keep up with the Gauntleteers (Jasoni, Laura and Peter are legends in their own time. We will not discuss any other's achievements or non-achievements.) and live life. I was doing well too, managing to keep all the balls in the air even if sometimes my fists of steel faltered a little. Then, this morning, I made the mistake of looking at the date. I don't want to frighten anyone but Christmas is only nine days off. Excuse me while I go and hide my head under the pillow. Okay, I'm feeling better now. If only every time I lifted the pillow I didn't see the eye of the tiger and feel his breath on my neck. Perhaps if I don't move it will go away and I will wake to find it was all a dream.
Enough maudlin self flagellation. Taos Toolbox Writers' Workshop in the US is now open for applications. Among others (Walter Jon Williams and Stephen R. Donaldson to be precise) Kelly Link is a lecturer. Kelly was one of the tutors at Clarion South this year and I learned an enormous amount from her. I would so like to be there but unless the Lotto comes through...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jacobean lilies

After last year's flowerless summer, the Jacobean lilies - one of my favourite of all flowering plants - are in bloom. They are incredibly beautiful with rich crimson spidery petals, an elegant narrow white stripe the length of each petal and rich eye of the tiger gold stamens. They simply gladden my heart. They are one of the few flowers I pick and bring inside although the pistil has to removed or it drips sticky nectar all over the table. They are so stunning that I only put one flower in a tall, narrow necked vase and stand it in splendid isolation. Every time I pass it I'm overwhelmed by its magnificence. I grow mine in pots so heavy as to require fists of steel to lift them because they won't flower in the garden beds no matter how carefully I nurture them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Aurealis Award Finalists

The finalists have now been announced and can be seen here .
It was a real thrill to be at the Awards this year and I'll be crossing my fingers for the West Australian contingent in 2008. It's especially pleasing to see some of my favourite writers such as Glenda Larke, Juliet Marillier and Shane Jiraiya Cummings listed.